I hadn’t realized I’d been avoiding going grocery shopping until I felt a calming wave of relief wash over me as I hauled my overstuffed reusable bag into my kitchen, with change to spare in my pocket.

I’ve done this countless times back at home, ranging from what I call “extreme” grocery shopping – the bi-annual Costco shop that ensures we’d be okay for months if the world outside were to melt away – to the last-minute “oops-I-forgot-the-yeast” shop, where the amount of time spent searching for what you’re after is 10 times greater in comparison than the size of the item.

I usually find some pleasure in leisurely strolling up and down the aisles, looking for what I need but also keeping my eyes open for things that I may instantly decide I want.

Here in Preston, where I can buy a day’s worth of fresh eats from the local bakery for £2, I have absolutely no interest in dropping $75 on food I would not only need to prepare, but that comes with a consumption time-limit.

Yesterday, however, after leafing through Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minutes Meals, I had developed a hankering for sweet chili rice that just wouldn’t go away.

Off to the store it was.

Time slipped away as I slowly trekked up and down the rows of produce, poultry, and non-perishables, making sure I wasn’t missing any deals, until my blue basket weighed something like 20 pounds.

They make you pack your own bags at Aldi. I also realized after the fact that if you want to put your groceries in bags, you have to hook them off the shelf and buy them before checking-out. I fit the soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and sesame oil in my purse. The rest, thankfully, all fit in my bag.

What I most thankful for, was the price tag.

After buying lemons, apples, and bananas, local Lancashire cheese, Greek-style houmous (British spelling of “hummus”), crumpets, crackers, and crunchy chocolate granola cereal, two mini pizzas, six mini yogurts, a bag of rice, a sprig of green onions, 15 eggs, a jug of milk, and a bottle of wine (“Grove Manor: Fruity Rosé”), take a guess how much it cost me.

iPhone - Groceries

I’m sure my bag weighed more in pounds than what its contents cost in pounds: £15.99.

Going off of today’s exchange rate, that’s $25.06 in Canadian dollars.

According to my sources back home (a.k.a. my dear mother), a bundle of groceries like this could easily cost $75. Of course, price depends in part on size and quality.

Size-wise, well, it’s a lot of food for one person. If I were to go out for a meal and a pint, I would probably only eat once, maybe one-and-a-half times, for that price. And I have yet to find a place that offers half-portions and half-pints for exactly half the price.

Quality-wise, the batch of rice I didn’t botch was pretty fantastic. This morning, my chocolatey cereal – which, if we’re being honest, tasted more like dessert – was amazing. Unfortunately it seems to be a UK-only brand.

Bon appétit!

PS- Hi Grandma, Grandpa & Auntie Eleanore.

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I woke up relatively early today, in my own bed, after having grown accustomed to living three hours ahead on the East Coast.

Now that it’s all over, it feels like the trip passed in the blink of an eye, and yet I can’t figure out how we managed to cram so much site-seeing, touring, walking and eating into a six-day trip.

Since my last post, us three wannabe New Yorkers took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where my great-grandmother landed after weeks of travelling across the Atlantic. We visited the Top of the Rock, which is almost 70 stories above 30 Rockefeller, home to NBC studios. And as timing goes, about an hour after photographing the beautiful panoramic view, Virginia was hit by the magnitude 5.8 earthquake.

We happened to be on an NBC tour at the time, where we saw the set for Monday Night Football, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live. It wasn’t until a reporter informed our guide that we couldn’t view the NBC news studios – because they were busy producing “breaking news” – that we knew what had happened.

Our broadway play for the trip was How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It was absolutely phenomenal. Everything from the set to the talent to Daniel Radcliffe was spectacular.

We literally ran through the Museum of Natural History an hour before closing in search of their dinosaur exhibit. The Ben Stiller movie Night at the Museum was filmed there, and in one of the scenes, the dinosaur skeleton comes to life, as do the other displays. Most kids would remember the scene where an Easter Island statue wants gum, or something like that. Either way, my sister clearly remembered, and so we sprinted through exhibits and dodged security guards clearing out the building for closing until we got our photo.

We saw Brooklyn, briefly, and walked the Brooklyn bridge. We trained to Coney Island to ride the wooden Cyclone roller coaster, and eat a hotdog at Nathan’s.

In my previous post, I mentioned how much I love the Met. Well, my favourite part of that museum was the section of modern art and famous paintings, and I soon discovered that MoMA is essentially a full gallery of my favourite floor of the Met.

We also visited the World Trade Centre site, where a memorial garden is being built. We saw Wall Street, City Hall, UpTown, MidTown and DownTown.

The stories are endless, and the three of us can’t wait to get back.

In the mean time, I’m turning to my 10-year list to see what else I can cross off.

This past week, I’ve accomplished #2 and #26, which are travelling to New York and turning my cell phone off for a week.

As an aside, I’d like to address the latter of the two, and the comments stating that it doesn’t count if I go on vacation for a week and leave my phone at home.

First, this was not a vacation. It was a chaotic site-seeing tour where we ran around the island of Manhattan until we could no longer use our feet. Vacations are for relaxing.

Second, I suffered from not being able to use my phone, and for several reasons: I couldn’t tweet what I was seeing, I couldn’t tweet breaking news about the East Coast’s first earthquake of such a magnitude in decades, I couldn’t call home to say we were fine (because the earthquake was barely felt in New York), I couldn’t text my loved ones, I couldn’t text those whom I don’t love but like a lot, I couldn’t choose to not text those that I dislike, etc, etc.

Long story short: Once upon a time… It COUNTS! … The end.

I have now knocked off 15 items on my list, and have a mere 86 to go.

Tweet me!

@HayleyWoodin

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It is finally beginning to look and feel like summer here in White Rock, which is untruthfully dubbed as the city that is always sunny.

Now normally, people – namely women – will attempt some sort of trendy detox diet to shed pounds before bikini season. But not the ladies in the Woodin household.

Here we are, almost a week into August, and I’ve barely had the time to go to the beach, and hadn’t had a socially commitment-less week so I could lock myself in my house and munch miserably on celery for 168 hours. I know I’m supposed to work my lifestyle around healthy eating habits, and not just squeeze in my daily servings of fruit and veggies in between parties and birthdays and other celebrations that involve cake and eating out. But it’s summer, and I do pilates once a week. And really, it’s all about justification.

But in preparation for our trip to New York, my mom, sister and I decided to go on a seven-day cleanse.

Last Sunday, we began the Cabbage Soup Diet, also known as the Sacred Heart Diet. From what I’ve heard, it’s created for heart surgery patients who need to drop weight fast before an operation.

During the cleanse, you are allowed to eat as much homemade cabbage soup as you’d like, whenever you’d like.

Each of the seven days has a strict list of what you are allowed to eat along with the bland and watery meal. For example, day one allows you to eat all of the fruit you’d like, on day four you can eat three bananas and drink an unlimited amount of skim milk and on day seven, you can indulge in veggies and two cups of brown rice.

Luckily, I’ve made it to day seven, and can honestly say I feel great. That’s not to say, however, that the journey did not put the three of us through hell.

You don’t realize how much you eat in a day until you’re consumption is limited. You don’t realize how many carbs you crave, you’re snacking habits or how much fat and sodium seeps into your daily diet through dipping sauces, cooking oils, butter, seasonings, etc.

What you also don’t realize, is how full a vegetarian diet can make you, and how little fuel you need to make it through the day. The diet forced us to find unique ways to prepare vegetables and how to make the most of limited ingredients.

Tomorrow will be my first day back in the “real world.” I’ll be trying my hardest to not completely undo the work I’ve done when I go to The Keg for a celebratory dinner tomorrow, and for an Indian food buffet the day after for a birthday.

But as long as I keep up my pilates and stay far, far away from McDonald’s, I’m sure I’ll be just fine.

Tweet me!

@HayleyWoodin

(PS: I should probably mention the diet’s effectiveness. Apart from being a dietary eye-opener, each of us has probably lost between five-10 pounds.)

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Last night was my first formal opportunity to practice my continental-style eating habits.

The DIVERSEcity awards, held at the Executive Airport Plaza hotel in Richmond, honoured businesses and organizations of different sizes that value multiculturalism and incorporate ethnic diversity into their business plans.

I was there on behalf of Kwantlen as a PAT member. My friend for the evening was a sociology and criminology professor from the school.

The evening was long, and featured interesting music and keynote speaker Roy Henry Vickers, a First Nations artist and recipient of the Order of Canada, among other achievements.

One of the highlights was the food. It was a buffet, with selections from Italy, Greece, India and Japan. Dessert included tiramisu and, my personal favourite, baclava.

I didn’t slurp my coffee, nor did I chew with my mouth open. But there was no way I was getting the flaky and crumbly Greek dessert on the back of my fork.

So I cheated the continental rules a little bit, but no one noticed. In the end, I think it’s better to be focused on enjoying the food and the company around you than focusing on how to eat while ignoring everyone else.

Tweet me!

@HayleyWoodin

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I spent my evening enjoying a lovely four-course meal at the Four Points Sheraton in Richmond with several Kwantlen business students and fellow PAT (President’s Ambassador Team) members.

The dinner set the scene for a business etiquette session with Cheryl Samusevich, a corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant (according to her business card) from Nebraska.

Over the course of two and half hours, we learned how to properly and professionally indulge in our tomato soup, chicken and potatoes, garden salad and chocolate cake, in accordance with the continental style of dining.

I’m no stranger to eating in formal settings, and I am generally overly conscious of how I eat in public. But I found that there were so many little details that I was unaware of, and that slowed down the eating process considerably.

Now I am full and well-learned in the art of (fine) dining, a skill which is apparently an important one to have when dealing with executives and well-learned individuals.

Here are some of the lessons I learned this evening:

1. A diner sits down on the right side of their chair, and stands up from the same side.

2. Salads are served after the entrée as a palate-cleanser. They are also more enjoyable to eat when you are not starving for actual food.

3. Sherry is served with soup, white wine with chicken or fish, red with red meat and champagne with desserts. Champagne also accompanies toasts (as in speeches and not the charred bread variety).

4. Each meal has a guest of honour and a host. The guest is always served first and has their plate cleared first, but the host, served last, takes the first and last bite of each course.

5. When being toasted, you never drink to yourself.

6. When passing bread or butter or coffee cream, you pass it around the table in a counter-clockwise manner, beginning with the guest.

7. Salt and pepper are always passed as a pair.

8. To eat your dessert, you have a fork and a spoon. The spoon acts as a knife.

9. The utensils are never put down on the plate, unless you are taking a drink. You don’t switch your fork from hand to hand either: You simply shovel food onto the back of the fork and put it in your mouth upside down.

10. If the waiter gives you poor service, you may choose to tip him five or 10 per cent, but you must explain to him why you did so.

Finally, and most importantly, when the waiter drops the coffee cream all over your designer purse and a pair of your favourite designer shoes, just keep calm, and carry on.

(For the fashionistas, fashionistos and label-lovers out there, no accessories were permanently harmed over the course of the night. My giraffe heels were salvaged in all of their glory.)

Tweet me!

@HayleyWoodin

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Anyone who knows me knows that I love popcorn.

I like kettle corn, and caramel corn is alright, but I simply adore air-popped popcorn with the traditional salt and butter as toppings.

I’ve loved it ever since I can remember, and even while working at a movie theatre for three years I still didn’t get sick of the stuff.

And despite a tragic childhood incident involving a hot kernel, it’s still possibly my favourite snack.

I don’t remember how young I was, but I remember the popcorn machine whirring on the counter, and the smell of popcorn filling the kitchen.

I had been warned several times to stay far away from the popper so as to not get burned.

So I stood, waiting in joyous anticipation, a couple of metres away from what would soon become my snack.

Now, I don’t know how exactly the next part of the story was possible: it defied physics itself!

But out of the popcorn machine flew a single burning hot kernel.

It soared through the kitchen, past the popcorn bowl and the counter, and landed right between my fingers.

It burned my skin, but mostly I was in shock: I wasn’t standing close to the machine, and the kernel didn’t just hit me, but wedged itself perfectly between my two fingers.

I learned two things that day.

First, that it is always possible to get hurt no matter how many precautions you take.

And second, that nothing can come between me and my love for popcorn.

I’d like to dedicate this story to my Grandpa, my dedicated blog reader and fellow popcorn lover.

Happy birthday!

@HayleyWoodin

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